Traffic Adventures in Bolivia

Road Safety and Behaviour on Cochabamba's Roads

April 14, 2016  |  By Melanie Hazenberg, Netherlands

Traffic Adventures in Bolivia

The second day of my stay in Bolivia I walked to work with another volunteer. On the main street there was a zebra pad so I thought I could cross over. This thought was not true and the other volunteer yelled to me that I had to came back. This is an example of a big difference between the European and the Bolivian traffic. I will explain to you how the traffic works in Bolivia.

I heard a lot of stories about the Bolivian traffic before I came here. I heard that it is completely different than in Europe, but works in some way. So I want to figure out why. In Europe there are many rules. That is one of the reasons why I still do not have my driving license. In Bolivia it is just the opposite. There is only one rule: stop for the red traffic light. When there is no traffic, this rule will be ignored. When the traffic light turns into green, everyone press their horn to try to make the traffic a bit faster. But in some way, traffic like this is working. So what is it like?

You have a lot of different traffic in Bolivia. One of them is the Taxi Trufi Car with three rows of seats, a number on the roof and a fixed route (a journey costs 2 Bolivianos; around 0,28 Dollars) The second one is the Trufi Van, also with a number on the roof and fixed route (2 Bolivianos per journey). And third; you have the Micro Small bus with 25 seats. The last one is the very colourful Trufi. These have destinations which are further away from the centre.

The Taxi Trufi’s

In Europe the system of traffic is difficult to understand for foreigners. In Cochabamba you can just jump in and out of the Trufi’s whenever you want. The system is really easy. The Taxi Trufi’s all have different numbers on top of where they are going to. When you want to go out the Trufi somewhere, you say ‘esquina por favor’ and the Trufi stops at the corner. When he does not stop, you say it louder. When nothing is working, you say Pare! This means stop. But in general, they will always stop for you.

Taxis

You have a lot of taxis in the street, but unfortunately you cannot trust all of them. The big cities in Bolivia are known to have ‘fake taxis’. Some taxi drivers only have a taxi sign on their car but no number. In this case, it is better to call a radio taxi because you are not sure if you can trust the man who drives the cab without number. He can take you to another place or lock the doors. So always be safe when you want to go by taxi. Radio taxis are always reliable. If you find it difficult to call in Spanish, you can also use the Easy Taxi app. This app is the Uber taxi app of Cochabamba. A lot of taxi drivers use this application. The only thing you have to do is request a cab and write a land mark down. You can see the drivers’ name, his number plate and how long it takes before he arrives. So this is a very easy way to request a taxi.

At night

It is very important that you don't take normal taxies at night, especially being a traveler. It can possibly be dangerous. You also have to watch out when you just entered a taxi and someone you do not know enters it. Do not share a taxi with a person you do not know. This is absolutely uncommon in Bolivia. You also have to watch out when the driver wants to pick up someone else while you are in the taxi. Say no! The taxi driver has no right to pick up anyone else, if you said no. Luckily, I have never been in a situation like this. Most of the times the taxis are reliable, but make sure you know when you can trust someone and when you cannot.

I think I will be completely integrated in this system in a couple of weeks. You do not need any difficult systems like you have in Europe. Just take the taxi, or Trufi whenever and wherever you want and you will be fine.

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